In keeping with its commitment to the struggle of ending the pervasive culture of impunity in Eritrea, ELS joined hands with nine like-minded civil society organisations in hosting a side event, on the fringes of the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.
The side event (panel discussion), which took place in the morning hours of 12 March 2018, focused on the theme of judicial devitalisation in Eritrea, which is a major feature of the crisis of human rights in the country. The problem manifests mainly in the form of non-availability of domestic legal remedies for grave human rights violations committed, including for alleged complicity of foreign companies in the perpetration of such violations. It is with this objective in mind that the panel discussion also included a reflection on two major judicial decisions from Canada, which deal with the very problem of judicial devitalisation in Eritrea, namely: Araya v. Nevsun Resources Ltd
. 2016 BCSC 1856 and Araya v. Nevsun Resources Ltd
. 2017 BCCA 401.
The side event featured two speakers: Mr. Habteab Y. Ogubazghi, Former Judge of the Last Court of Appeal in Eritrea and member of ELS; and Ms. Jelena Aparac, Member of the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries. Mr. Ogubazghi discussed the most up to date account about the problem of judicial devitalisation in Eritrea. Ms. Aparac on her part commented on the relevance of the two judicial decisions from Canada, with particular emphasis on their importance to on-going accountability efforts for gross human violations in Eritrea.
The side event took place at a time when the Eritrean human rights cause is entering a new phase, involving peculiar opportunities and challenges. On the opportunity side, the political dynamics in Eritrea has seen a major development due to a new rapprochement with neighbouring Ethiopia. With this, the prolonged and primary excuse of the Eritrean Government to supress fundamental rights and freedoms has now been put to a rest. If taken responsibly, this should come for the Eritrean Government as an opportune moment to change course, but thus far there is no sign of that on the part of the government.
On the challenge side, with the election of Eritrea to the HRC (since January 2019), the struggle of ending impunity will face tremendous challenges as far as HRC-related advocacy work is concerned. More than ever, there is a need to maintain the momentum of the struggle, among other things, by organising periodic advocacy events and yesterday’s side event was just one example of such a commitment.
The side event was moderated by the Director of ELS, and co-sponsored by the following civil society organizations listed in alphabetical order: Centre for African Legal Studies, Eritrea Focus, Eritrean Law Society (ELS), Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA), International Criminal Bar (ICB), International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), Network of Eritrean Women (NEW), and Women Against Torture (WAT).